RE: Memetics basics

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Tue 06 Jan 2004 - 12:51:33 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "RE: Memetics basics"

            <Hmm. No room for memes being abstract information? (That, of course, has
    > to be encoded in matter, a brain, paper, object, etc.)>
            It depends, I guess on what is meant by abstract information. I'm sticking to the view that if memetics is about culture, then memes only exist once they exist in a culture, which involves the transmission of the meme between at least two people (and indeed probably a lot more than jsut two people). Whatever the original form it only becomes a meme once "out there" in culture, so it's prior form doesn't interest me- although that doesn't mean it's not important.

            I'm trying to think of a half-decent analogy but can't, so how about Newtonian mechanics being good enough to get (some) spacecraft to Mars, even though they are only an approximation of what's really going on. I think we can get a long way with memetics without being more reductive than cultural artefacts.

    >> Again, when the list is on topic, this is another major
    area of
    >>debate with plenty of people on the list past and present very
    skeptical as
    >>to its benefits as a model of cultural transmission.

            <You have to wonder why they are here. :-)>

            Well, some, like Wade, always maintained a kind of socratic method of honest and rigourous interrogation of an idea to see if stands up to scrutiny, which is no bad thing.

            <Any room in here for a view that memes and genes both exist in a complex
    > ecosystem? Predator and prey models? Parasitic to mutualistic
    > symbiote? That genes build minds able to learn useful memes that are then
    > parasitized by less useful even dangerous memes?>
            Hmm... that's beyond my ability to comment with any confidence or competence. The capacity for culture is presumably adaptive, whether or not cultural traits exists with sufficient permanence to impact on biological evolution though I don't know.

            <... if memetics is useful at all, it should
    > be useful for understanding current trends. The current events and what
    > led up to them in the last 50 years or more should be under intense
    > discussion *in terms of memes and their hosts.*>
            Yep, that's certainly true. Joe's views are typical of a post-cold war "search for an enemy" necessary to maintain certain ideological frameworks, particularly but not exclusively in the USA, in not dissimiliar ways to how the ufo/abduction movement has sprung up in the face of science's ever greater rolling back of the unknown, challenging religious certainties- indeed fundamentalism can also be seen as a response to this.

            Will memetics ever be a predictive science? I doubt it as I suspect culture is a chaotic system with too many variables to measure with any degree of longevity of predictable outcome.


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